Looking for the ultimate holiday gift? Wrap up a 2024 trip to France with Riviera Driving Tours. The anticipation of this glorious getaway will make the winter months speed by.
Dirk Dominick lives in Birmingham, but he knows France. He has traveled there for years, and he and his family even bought an apartment in the small village of Bar-Sur-Loupe in 2000. “This really gave me the opportunity to dig into the area deeply,” says Dirk. “I’ve always loved hopping in a car and exploring new roads, villages, restaurants, all of that.”
Now, he’s sharing that love via Riviera Driving Tours, the tour company he founded in 2011 that offers driving tours of the South of France (with a little bit of Italy included). On four-and-a-half days of the seven-day tours, guests can expect to drive either Mini Cooper or Porsche convertibles, traveling by convoy with daily itineraries that include scenic drives, stops for lunch and sightseeing, and more.
Dirk, who lives in Avondale with his wife, Westcott (who helps run Riviera Driving Tours), and daughter, has explored those corners to find the best for guests on his seven-day tours. “The itineraries take full advantage of the beauty of the South of France,” he says. That includes famous spots, such as the the site of Princess Grace Kelly’s fatal accident and locations used in the filming of To Catch a Thief, as well as off-the-beaten-path treasures that Dirk has found in 20 years of researching the area.
“France is just so culturally rich and geographically diverse that it’s very easy to find something to pique your interest. Delicious food, great roads, fascinating towns, and beautiful scenery seem to be around every corner.”–Dirk Dominick
Guests stay in a hotel just outside of St. Paul de Vence, a medieval town on the French Riviera, taking day trips from there. Nights bring wine dinners, including a meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant in an ancient chateau.
When Dirk started Riviera Driving Tours, he offered two or three tours a year. In 2024, nine tours are scheduled, with more possibly in the offing. They are limited to five or six couples, and other than airfare, everything is included in the price of the tour ($4,450 per person for the Mini Cooper tour, $6,000 per person for the Porsche tour). That includes meals, accommodations, the car, fuel, and insurance.
For Mountain Brook’s Chris and Beth Wilder, the Mini Cooper tour was the perfect way to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. “It was by far the most amazing vacation we have ever taken,” Beth says. “We have been blessed to travel quite a bit in our 30-plus years together, but this trip topped everything else we have done.”
She praised the location, her friends and family that she traveled with and, most of all, Dirk’s attention to detail. “From the time we stepped off the plane until the time we stepped back on, every detail of each day was handled for us,” she says. “All we had to do was relax and enjoy the ride.”
That’s music to Dirk’s ears. “My goal is to take people to places they would never see if they had traveled to the area by themselves or with a traditional tour group,” he says.
Dirk Dominick’s 5 Favorite Drives
- The first drive of the tour—a late afternoon run up to the Col de Vence. A challenging but tremendously fun road to drive, and the view from the top is spectacular.
- The Route Napoleon, arguably one of the best driving roads in Europe. We drive from Castellane south toward Grasse, enjoying sweeping curves and magnificent views of the Mediterranean.
- Anything along the Gorges du Verdon, but specifically the Routes Des Cretes. It is a beautiful, slightly hair-raising drive along the north rim of the canyon. It never disappoints.
- The Route de Gentelly above the village of Greolieres, a short stretch along one of the most dramatic “balcony roads” in France. Countless films, commercials, magazine articles, and car launches have featured this wonderful road. My wife, Westcott, loves this one too.
- The D37 that runs from La Turbie down to the coast. Something about this drive I always love, probably because of the view high above the Mediterranean. This is also the road where Grace Kelly had her tragic car crash in 1982.